Free agent “tampering” is now legally underway, so contracts have begun to leak out as player agents and GMS go back and forth. This week, we will be monitoring the transactions list to see who is doing well, who is not, and why. Some of these will be pretty obvious. Others not so much. This will also inform our early predictions for next year, so it’s worth paying attention to. Just a reminder of the rules:
1: Loser: Pseudo-contender Tennessee Titans
Titan-up isn’t just the cheer rising from the crowd, it’s also the motto of the owner’s purse strings this offseason. Let’s do a quick review. Last year’s first round pick? Gone for nothing. Ouch. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith? Gone, for nothing. Corey Davis, Jonnu Smith, Malcolm Butler, Kenny Vaccaro, Logan Ryan, Jadeveon Clowney all gone. Other than a compensatory pick back in 2022… for nothing.
In: NFL non-legend Marcus Johnson. And Achilles tear recoveree Bud Dupree.
Their secondary was terrible last year, so some of this is addition by subtraction, but overall, this is a big step backward for a team that fancied themselves a contender. The biggest addition to this point is the word Pseudo in front of contender.
2: Winner: Talking yourself into U
I know you wanted to sign X and Y and Z, but X and Y were always going to re-sign with their original team. That is why media-personality-so-and-so talked about them for weeks on cable sports show A, B or C as though they weren’t! Good news though, they got U. U wasn’t talked about very much heading into free agency, but U signed a VERY team friendly deal. You should feel good about U. Your GM knows not go crazy signing Z. Z is over-rated. U is a value play. The team that signed Z doesn’t understand the market and made a huge over pay. According to Pro Football Focus, U had a 82.4 overall rating last year, and that was really good even though they don’t have any actual stats to show for it. U is definitely going to get it done next year. Don’t even worry about broken body part D from last year. Plus they signed W, and he is twice as good as U.
3. Winner: Bill(ions) Belichick
Jonnu Smith, Matthew Judon, Davon Godchaux, Jalen Mills, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne and Henry Anderson. These guys are all new Patriots today thanks to a wild first day spending spree that will probably lead to friction burns on the Patriots wallet. Several of these guys (especially Smith and Godchaux) filled key holes on the Patriots roster where they need to have good players, so it is hard to be critical of most of these moves. What will be interesting will be to see the talking heads be flummoxed by their annual disparagement of whoever spends the most money on free agency in day 1 colliding with their urge to praise any Belichick move as genius. Ultimately, some of these moves will be good, some bad. Judon is the only super expensive piece here (and probably still at a solid value). What is notable is the amount of holes this team has, that they have been unable to fill in the draft. This isn’t a study on the draft however, and they filled a lot of massive gaps on their roster. Winner
4. Winner: Running it back
The Buccaneers re-signed Gronk and Shaq Barrett yesterday to complete the major re-signings necessary to run back their team next year pretty much identical to last year. They will likely lose some smaller pieces, but overall they will be coming back with their core intact. Really, yesterday’s biggest story is the ongoing battle for the legacy of the peak Patriots. Just like with last year, Brady remains ahead on that front, while Belichick fights to play catch up.
5. Loser: The Jets. Always the Jets
The Jets figured to be major players in the free agency sweepstakes with one of the highest numbers of free cap space. While they were linked to many of the top free agents, they walked away with middle of the road pieces Corey Davis and Carl Lawson. Both of these players are analytical darlings, so there is no doubt Jets fans spent the evening combing the data to feel better about things, but the truth is neither of these players move the needle in convincing a player like Deshaun Watson or Russell Wilson that the Jets are serious about winning. These are just two steps closer to the pointless middle they have resided in for a decade now.
6. Loser: Joe Burrow’s knees
According to owner Mike Brown, the Bengals number one priority in the offseason was improving the offensive line to protect Burrow. It turns out he was just kidding. The big name offensive lineman are mostly gone, and outside of a defensive signing, the Bengals were quiet. While it isn’t too late to get help, it is to late to confirm it was their top priority. It clearly isn’t. Money talks, and the Bengals always say “We’re cheap.”
7. Loser: The wide receiver market.
None of the big names went off the board on day 1, meaning that no one was blown away by an offer. The few who did sign, Corey Davis and Nelson Agholor being the two biggest names, found their contracts a little bit thinner than expected. As day two commences, most of the big names are waiting to see when Kenny Golladay goes off the market and which spurned suitors still have money to burn. There will be some great bargains in the leftover bin.